Running Back Latavius Murray
Before the Oakland Raiders Week 7 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, we looked at five questions we had going into the bout at EverBank Field.
In Head Coach Jack Del Rio's return to Jacksonville, the Raiders took care of business, convincingly beating the Jaguars 33-16.
The Silver and Black will stay in Florida this week in advance of their Week 8 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but before look ahead to Jameis Winston and Co. let's review our five questions, and see if they were answered.
1. Will Latavius Murray suit up and be available Sunday?
After two weeks on the shelf recovering from a toe injury, the Pro Bowl running back was back in uniform Sunday at EverBank Field, jumpstarting the Raiders ground attack in the process.
While No. 28 rushed for just 59 yards in his return to the gridiron, he did find the end zone twice, and helped the Silver and Black finish the game with 144 rushing yards – the team's most since Week 2.
"We know that we complement each other," said Murray when discussing the Raiders trio of running backs. "We know we have to run the ball to be successful on offense, and so we complement each other, and then we're able to take shots down the field. It feels good just to get the run game going, definitely a lot more work to do on my end. I need to continue to get better, do some things better, but what's most important is we got the win."
Murray's right, the Raiders definitely secured the win, and the team's ability to effectively run the ball was a big reason for that.
2. Can the third-down efficiency improve?
Just by looking at the numbers, you'd have to say yes.
Heading into Sunday's matchup with the Jaguars, the Silver and Black were converting just 36.1 percent of their third down tries – a number that ranked them towards the bottom of the league in that metric.
However, against the Jaguars, Derek Carr and Co. were eight of 18 on third down, and that 44 percent conversion rate would rank in the Top 10 in the NFL.
The key for the Raiders now is to keep up their improvement on third down, and sustain Sunday's success throughout the rest of the season.
Converting on third down is crucial for the success of the offense as a whole, and while there's no doubt there is room for the Raiders to keep rising in that area, Sunday's effort was a noted improvement.
3. How does the situation at right tackle play out?
Although he returned to the field and was able to participate in practice throughout the week, tackle Menelik Watson was designated inactive prior to Sunday's game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Vadal Alexander also did not suit up, as the rookie dealt with an ankle injury, meaning that Austin Howard earned the start at right tackle.
The veteran tackle performed well in his third start of the season – as did the entirety of the offensive line – keeping quarterback Derek Carr upright, not allowing a sack while also springboarding the running game.
It's been the same theme all season; regardless of who's been inserted along the offensive line, the unit has risen to the challenge and performed at a high level in each of the Raiders seven regular season matchups.
Depth is vital to have on any successful football team, and the constant shifting of the Silver and Black's offensive line is a testament to just that.
4. Can the defense put together a complete effort?
Looking at the totality of Sunday's win over the Jaguars, you'd have to say that the Raiders defense put together their most complete effort of the season.
Blake Bortles completed 23-of-43 passing attempts for 246 yards, and while he did throw one touchdown, he also tossed a pair of interceptions, and never looked to get in a rhythm Sunday afternoon at EverBank Field.
"I kind of saw him [Bortles] smacking his thighs, and head down, throwing his hands up, so I definitely think we did a good job," cornerback David Amerson said. "The front seven did a great job of harassing him the whole time, getting him out the pocket, but I think we did a good job on him."
The Raiders defense was also able to, for the most part, not allow the Jaguars running game to get going, and although Jacksonville did eclipse the century mark on the ground, a bulk of those yards came on one 42-yard gallop by Chris Ivory.
Was the defensive effort against the Jaguars perfect? Not by a long shot, but it was certainly the best effort the group has put on tape thus far in 2016.
5. Will the Raiders win the quarterback battle?
When all was said and done, statistically, Blake Bortles enjoyed a more-impressive day than Derek Carr, but I think you still have to give the nod to the Raiders signal-caller in this matchup.
At the end of the first half, Bortles had completed just five passes for 57 yards, and had been rendered a complete nonfactor through 30 minutes of action. Carr, on the other hand, had already thrown for over 150 yards, found the end zone, and looked to be in control of the Raider offense.
Bortles did end the day with 246 passing yards, but a majority of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was all but out of reach for the Jaguars.
Carr and Bortles will likely forever be linked based on the fact that they came out of the same draft class, but Sunday afternoon No. 4 and the Raiders got the best of Bortles and the Jaguars, flying out of Jacksonville with a 33-16 win under their belts.